Onward!

It’s been a while since I last wrote and honestly the only reason why I’ve taken a step back from blogging is because I’ve been elbow deep in living the life.

onward

I have spent more time reading up on a philosophy I thought I knew while trying to concurrently implement elements that I have always cast aside in favor for other styles than I thought would be necessary. I knew I was going to have to change things up when I started the switch from mixing unschooling and Charlotte Mason to full on CM and I guess I was a bit naive regarding just how much unschooling I had taken on. I dropped Unschooling because I noticed that my children needed the structure more but I didn’t want to lose the atmosphere that we had created in the process.

When something’s not broken you don’t go trying to fix it and the one thing we had really accomplished with unschooling was that the children loved learning! The last thing I wanted to do was make them feel like they must do this checklist worth of subjects and to reduce learning to a chore when we had spent so much time building an atmosphere of learning. After thumbing through multiple free sites, I built my own curriculum for all three of the school aged children mixing sources from multiple grade levels to reach each child where they were at… or so I thought.

anaandjoatgreenbeltlake

After one six week term with my own CM styled curriculum I realized that mixing them just wasn’t challenging my oldest at all and my younger two really needed to be separated, so I switched things up again. For the first time ever, I moved towards using someone else’s curriculum. At this point I needed something that I could pull together within one week but that also didn’t micromanage my time with too many instructions and so I decided to stick with Ambleside Online‘s free curriculum. I knew that most of the books could be found in the public domain so I didn’t have to spend a fortune pulling together my resources and many of the ones that are not free I could find in one of the three counties that I have a library card for.

We have been at this now for 6 weeks- we should be taking a break this week but using someone else’s curriculum has been a HUGE adjustment for us and instead of being ready for a break, we are two weeks behind. It’s not that this curriculum is hard for us, instead its exactly the kind of challenge we needed, but trying to juggle the items listed on the weekly syllabus (which I LOVE the format of!) with the things that used to be considered electives has been a bit of a challenge.

I used to focus on Math, Phonics, and Reading and everything else just kind of fell into place and because we are always on the move everything fell into place easily. Now I am trying to read 35, 15 minute long, readings a week (years 1,2 and 4- the on demand non-structured preschool readings are not included in this number), regularly make sure we are adding in Nature Study, Hymn Study, Composer Study, Folksongs, Handicrafts, Geography, Mapwork, Plutarch, Shakespeare and Poetry all while continuing Piano Lessons, Science Classes, regular Field Trips and while adding in an engineering class, doctors appointments and our own fun readings every night.

aquariumsilhuette

Dude, I can’t even express how stressed out I was getting over it all during the first two weeks. I read so many blogs and listened to quite a few podcasts trying to figure out how families larger than mine manage to keep this all together!  I was trying so hard to keep the atmosphere that we had created while trying to add in all of this structure because I could see the value in every single part. I knew that together we could have something pretty awesome but I also knew that how things worked for other people wasn’t going to work for me. I don’t have the energy to keep house along with all of this other stuff and keep up with friends or volunteering- all of which are important to me and I don’t want to cut back on- but something had to change. The kids loved school but I was getting too stressed.

So I looked at it from another angle.

Mornings don’t work well for us- at least not for readings. Mommy reading everything out loud, doesn’t work well for me. Schedules, well, I still can’t keep them, so I work with my own version. Routine…not my cuppa tea. So how do I fit it all in without making a schedule or routine, without me reading everything out loud and without bombarding our mornings with lessons?

scheduling

While daily checklists and scheduled routines do not work for us, loose weekly requirements do. What does work is making a big list of everything I want to do across all three years during the week on our big blackboard, choosing a handful from each year and fitting those in everyday. Somedays don’t work as planned, either stuff comes up that is just too awesome to miss out (like free children’s day at the Aquarium) or we are so out of it that school just cannot go on, but the system still works for us. All in all, it has allowed us to keep the atmosphere, find a rhythm, and it keeps the boredom from settling in. On the downside, we don’t always get everything to fit into one week, but we are doing so much regularly that it no longer bothers me.

I do not read everything out loud anymore- Man was this killing my voice and my daily productivity! Not enough tea or coffee to keep me from getting sleepy while reading out loud for hours on end. Only one of my four is a strong enough reader to read on their own but too much reading assigned to even him meant that his reading for fun habits were disappearing and I didn’t want that either. Instead we started finding audiobooks through our library (who uses hoopla) or Librivox  and we now listen in the car or they listen during quiet time on their own. If we are not listening together then I’ll read ahead on my own so that I know what they are learning too and narrations are always done with me so we haven’t lost the one on one time in the process.

Also I don’t do all of the readings in the mornings anymore. I spread them out throughout the day in between our other activities. What used to be scheduled from 830 am to 1230 pm now is broken up on the way to science or piano, in the morning before math/ copywork / nature study/ handicrafts or in the evening after dinner. This way we keep the fun feeling of reading with mommy but it doesn’t turn into a chore. Sometimes it’s outside under a tree, sometimes on the couch, sometimes while we eat breakfast… but most of the time we read when I know it will keep their interests.

twinsiesjoandgreelpy

I was overthinking it all. I was guilty of overthinking again. I do this a lot. I compare what I’m doing with what I read and I wonder if I am doing it wrong or if I need to add such and such… in a matter of 2 weeks I lost my focus. I went into this school year with a relaxed attitude. I wasn’t stressed, I wasn’t over burdened…but then when I adapted to someone else curriculum I fell into the curriculum trap. It is a guideline, it is a philosophy, it is a lifestyle, it is not a how to. I needed to go back to how I viewed the curriculum; looking at it more like a booklist/unit and less like a manual. I am too literal to look at it like a manual. I stress out too easily. I overthink it too much and I forget that education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life.

This is one of the greatest things about homeschooling and in an effort to create more structure I momentarily forgot that structure does not have to look like school to be effective. I don’t need to have blocks of subjects. I don’t need to have to do lists written out for each child. I don’t need to do it all. The children still need to be responsible for their own education and they need to work with me like they always have if we want to pull this off. I can homeschool in an organic way without being an unschooler and I can find freedom in a rhythm that is full of discipline.

I am, I can, I ought, I will.

This is our life.

This is not school.

We are individuals who were created in the image of the Almighty, we are each unique and in that uniqueness we are different from others so our school may not look like others do. We may have aspects that are similar. We may follow the same philosophy. We may even have many of the same struggles but what works for one does not necessarily work for another.

anaatbuttlersorchard

So onward we move down this road, focusing on enjoying this journey because the destination leaves me with an empty nest, a thought I am not ready to rush into.

Make Way for Breaks: Scheduling around Chronic Illness

Ah the beloved break. Spring Break, Winter Break…Summer vacation. Many of my favorite childhood memories are inextricably linked with the nostalgia of school breaks. A nostalgia that I do not want my children to miss out on even though we have the freedom to break away from the school schedules that accompany them. I love the idea of traditions that make their home within a specific break. The feeling of adventure as you look forward to days or weeks of unscheduled freedom, which is why I schedule my entire year around such breaks.

makewayforbreaks

I absolutely love that as a homeschooler I can control how we set up those breaks and how often we get to have them. I love being able to plan special breaks around family birthdays or events happening in our life. The children love knowing that if one week has been especially hard on us, there is always the option of having a slower week soon after. However, there’s another reason I love being able to schedule breaks whenever I need them at this season of my life. Quite frankly, my health demands it.

My body physically demands some kind of reprieve from the responsibilities that go along with being a homeschooler. I just cannot do it all, all of the time. It is too much for me. Trying to homeschool, keep house, volunteer, be a wife, a writer, feed my creative hungers and intellectual curiosities all while fighting my own body and it’s limitations absolutely requires that I prioritize my time. For me it is a constant battle between the chronic fatigue and body pains of fibromyalgia, the eye fatigue, headaches and migraines of IIH and the debilitating effects of seasonal depression that absolutely demand that I listen to my body and be proactive rather than reactive.

Reactions mean days in bed with no ability to meet the needs of myself, let alone my children. Which  I feel is not fair to them or my husband, who is wonderful enough to pick up my share as well as his own during those rough patches. That is not the kind of mother or wife I want to be, my own personal expectations are far too high for that. So instead of reacting to piss poor planning, I actively schedule and prioritize my time, knowing my limits and abiding by them. Knowing that I need a certain number of down days per week and not over scheduling my time. Knowing that certain situations, lightings or atmospheres trigger headaches. Knowing all of these things and above all, planning for them- which is especially hard when you also enjoy being spontaneous and adventurous.

IMG_7151

First things first. My first step in planning out my time is to plan out a rough yearly schedule based on the times of year that work with me and not against me. We choose to school year round in order to best accommodate my needs in this regards.

For us this looks like a year round schedule that is broken up into six terms. These terms are very loosely based and can last anywhere from six to eight weeks. At around six weeks I evaluate our current mood and condition; if all is well we go ahead for two more weeks, if not then we stop and take a week off. This way we don’t overdo things trying to just push through. However, unlike most term based schedules I make one slight distinction – we have what I call our Holiday Term and Summer Vacation built into the term system.

Our school year looks like this:

Term 1: July &August

Term 2: Sept &Oct

Term 3: Nov &Dec- Holiday term

Term 4: Jan & Feb

Term 5: Mar &Apr

Term 6: May & June – Summer Vacation

During the four regular terms we do the vast majority of our studying, we take field trips, go to plays or performances and take part in local classes. The short breaks between terms allow for little reprieves that are just right for clearing our minds from time to time. On the other hand, the two  middle terms are our big breaks. Rather than me preparing everything and laying everything out we go with what feels interesting. We follow passions and build our independent study ability because my children love learning so much that they just don’t stop, even if I tell them that we are on vacation. I still record our progress during this time but I don’t set up any requirements. I don’t ask the children to do math or copy work, we don’t read off of our scheduled readings. We do check out science books at the library (usually because someone wants to know how something works), we do go to museums, create art, watch documentaries…all things that I record through pictures, receipts and end products but any thing that happens during this time is occurring spontaneously and is done out of pure curiosity or desire.

As much as the kids love all these breaks, the best part about this schedule is that it allows me time during my hardest months to move into survival mode without affecting our overall year.

November and December are very hard months for me. My mind has a horrible time adjusting to the light changes, and the weather changes affect how my body moves as well. During these months I just cannot keep up with everything so instead I plan for my focus to shift away from schooling to things like dishes, laundry, and meals. I know that I can spend the time with my children baking and reading without worrying that I have enough written down for the reviews. The children also love the freedom to enjoy the first snows and the changes of the seasons outside without worrying about written math lessons. In addition, because it coincides with Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Three Kings Day this break allows us to focus on traditions and joyful holiday fun rather than finishing up a test.

On the flip side of this May and June are my best months. The weather is perfect for spending the entire day outside. Gardens can be planted. Nearby nature preserves are full of life waiting to be explored. Most schools aren’t out yet so it is also a perfect time for a family vacation or special outings. We love having the freedom to use these months (and my extra energy) doing the things that are harder to do the rest of the year without thought to school. It also works out nicely that our last few weeks of summer vacation perfectly coincide with the schools release so that we can have fun with cousins as well.

IMG_7136

Now that my year is planned out (roughly), I move my focus on to my weeks and terms. Before this year my terms were based entirely on our interests at that time. I would ask the children what they were interested in and then we would explore those things together- taking every rabbit trail along the way. However, because this year is so different I’ll keep it short and sweet. First of all, because I am following a Charlotte Mason education this year, this part of my planning process is very specific to this style. I have my list of subjects and my topics within each subject for each child that I want to complete over the year. I then break that list into the four terms that I have going on during the year. Because I know that each term can last from six to eight weeks I plan for eight weeks from the get go knowing ahead of time that we may be starting the next term picking up at the unfinished end of the last one. As for subject matter…well that is a whole other post and one that relies heavily on mixing and matching what works for us based on established resources like Ambleside Online, Simply Charlotte Mason, Charlotte Mason Help, A Modern Charlotte Mason, Sabbath Mood, A Delectable Education, and AfterThoughts. This year I spent about a month preparing for our upcoming year but even then I only prepared down to the weekly level of each term. I stop my lesson plans at the week level specifically because I know that each week will require a different rhythm to best fit my health at that time.

 

IMG_6958

So, moving onto the how. How do I plan ahead regarding my day to day when I also know that I am no good at keeping schedules and when I have to plan ahead for any possible unknown flare ups? For me, it means multiple open plans. I never have just one schedule or routine, instead I have a cycle of options that fit together making up the perfect week or term or year.

For this year these are the options for my days.

  1. The out of the house day, Full Day: Basically these are the days when we leave the house. We wake up earlier than usual, we need to have planned meals for the day, outing bags need to be packed the night before, weather needs to be checked… this also means that no other schooling will occur, dinner needs to be easy and tomorrow needs to be at home because this kind of day is exhausting, for all of us.
  2. The out of the house day, part day: These are the days that include some kind of outing that is close to home and less than 3 hours long, including driving time. Piano lessons, Art class, Science class, Playdates, Nature Study, Library trips… all of these options are part of our school day and the rest of our day flows around them. Readings, math and copy work still happen although when they happen depends greatly on the schedules required by outside forces such as other people, open/close times, weather issues, etc…
  3. The home school day: This is a typical homeschool day and normally only lasts 3 hours. We wake up when we wake up and follow a basic routine, which often look like this: breakfast, readings together, math and copy work, lunch, tea time, outside time, free afternoons, tidy up, dinner and family time.
  4. The home chore day: These are the days when I just can’t stand the mess any longer and I need to deep clean. We still do math, copy work and about half of our regular readings but the focus is on our house… these days usually precede house guests and are the reason my children ask who is coming to visit when they see me pull out the cleaning supplies.
  5. The lazy day (I name this with a warm, fuzzy attachment to the term lazy, not at all a negative one): When we have had a particularly harrowing week or weekend we throw one of these days in (usually on Monday or Friday) just to help us refresh. These are usually an anything goes kind of day and we rarely get dressed on them. You will often find mommy in yoga pants, the middle girls in tee’s n shorts (regardless of the weather outside), Itty bitty running through the halls in underwear (her preferred mode of dress) and Little Man is usually in pj bottoms with a tank top (he would also prefer to be in underwear alone but alas being the only boy in a house full of girls requires that he be clothed at lest marginally). You will almost always see a slew of art supplies scattered across our living room, a stack of books beside a crumb filled tea set and more than one electronic device huddled with a blanket. Mommy’s nose is most likely firmly stuck in the pages of a book for a good portion of the day. These are our favorite days.

Mixing and matching these different kinds of days into a week , month or term allow us to focus on the atmosphere of our learning. The flow we had as unschoolers stays intact even if I now have readings or assignments that we want to finish within a specific week. I try to have at least two #3 days and no more than one #1 or #5 days per week. Most weeks we have three #2 days and two #3 days and occasionally we will have a full week of #3 days, these, though not often enough, are often what I feel are my most productive weeks.

IMG_7006

While certain aspects of this plan are specific to CM, it has not always been. This is the same plan that I used when I unschooled. The only difference between this schedule and our unschooling one was that our homeschool days were entirely child led and sometimes looked similar to our lazy days. I didn’t come by way of this over night either. Over the years I found our rhythm. There were seasons where I pushed too hard and crashed shortly after. There were times when I over scheduled our weeks and sometimes months, leading to an in ability to get out of bed. If you look through my past posts its easy to see where depression took over, where fatigue left me empty, where I just couldn’t handle the day to day of life. Every one of those hard or dark times was taken into consideration when I built this schedule over the last three years.

Last year was my first full year without a complete burnout. For me that means I found what worked. What worked was this. As of now this is the way that I can schedule things in the most productive way while also being aware of my own limitations. This is how I get everything to fit without burning myself out. I have to create blank spaces in our year. I have to schedule in room for wiggling. To put it in a nutshell, scheduling for me, is all about how I Make Way for Breaks.

Just Like… Me!?

This past fall we made the decision to let go of our Unschooling ways in favor for a more structured Charlotte Mason routine and now, half a year later, I am taking a second look at our decision. This is not what I was planning. I had glorious visions of days filled with us out in nature, surrounded by classical literature, art, and music. I had so many dreams and visions. I expected my children to love the extra reading time too but that hasn’t happened. Instead everyday has been a challenge, every assignment a battle.

justlikeme.png

Here’s the thing, I am not convinced its the change of style causing all the havoc. I’ve been noticing a trend with my two oldest over the years that has nagged at me but not really worried me. I thought it was a phase. Maybe it still is a phase, but this new style has highlighted the issue. The issue? Underachievement!

I’m sure that part of the problem began with their perfectionism and the need to get things done right but now its morphed into a need for things to be easy. Easy things don’t present a challenge, easy things can be done without really thinking, planing or having to fail repeatedly. After all, failing is not the greatest feeling in the world … I should know, I hate failing.

 I hate failing so much that I dropped honors classes in high school because it was easier to be the smartest kid in the class in a regular class getting straight A’s without trying than it was to actually have to pay attention in class, take notes and …*gasp* study (!) to make B’s in honors! That trend followed me all the way through my undergrad years and is the dirty secret behind my 5 major changes in one semester. Actually, I didn’t learn how to study until grad school and even then it wasn’t out of necessity but rather out of intrigue for the subject matter. 

I get it, I really do. Finding out that my kids are gifted opened my eyes to my own undiagnosed giftedness. My kids are just like me! I study best when I’m fascinated by the materials. I have sensory sensitivities, I displayed asynchronous development in my younger years, I felt at ease academically in every level …all of the oddities that I struggled with in myself made so much sense when I saw them in my children through the lens of Giftedness, but this is a bit different. This is like a gifted fault that I have passed on to my children…a fault that I still struggle with!

 I still choose the easy way out. I still shoot down hard options that could be very rewarding because I’ve allowed underachievement to control some of my major life decisions in really unhealthy ways. I still am an underachiever. 

I have so many ideas that constantly flow through my mind:

-possible websites that could help homeschoolers search through the millions of free and cheap resources that are already online (I’ve had this one for the past four years!),

– creating a History curriculum that looks at interactions world wide through a billiard ball effect over time (this one I’ve had festering since my teaching days back in 2005!)…

 I’ve had these ideas and the means to make them possible for years but I just haven’t even started one of them. Part of it is fear of failure, part of it is wondering if I have the credentials to be taken seriously once they are finished, part of it is wondering if they are just crazy ideas that don’t matter, and part of it is just laziness because all of them require determination and effort. 

Finding giftedness in yourself after noticing it in your children can be a wonderful link bonding the two generations in a special way. Knowing that your children’s quirks are just like yours adds to the level of understanding and compassion that as a parent is really necessary for your everyday peace, but not every quirk is one you wanted to pass down.

So now I face a new challenge.

 How do I face underachievement in its beginning stages with my young children when I have spent years running from it in myself? 

A challenge of this magnitude is usually one that I would try to avoid. I know this is going to be tough. I know that I may not succeed with my first idea. I know that the stakes are high. I know all of this, but if I am going to help any of them face their own underachievement, then I need to face my own. I don’t know if I need to tweak our style again. I don’t know if I need to put more of an emphasis on the child led aspects that we used to hold to with only some subjects being mandated by Mom. I don’t know what I need to do!

 I didn’t write this post with the intention of tackling how to fix underachievement among gifted students. This post is a part of the GHF Blog Hop: Recognizing Giftedness in Our Children and Ourselves because  sometimes recognizing giftedness is recognizing the sides of giftedness that we may not want to admit to, especially in ourselves. After all, the first step towards fixing anything is admitting that there is something that needs to be fixed. It is sometimes realizing that I can’t say “your child…” to my husband jokingly because this time, they are Just Like …Me!?

mar2016ghfbloghoppic

 

Quitter

I am a quitter.

 

I am a quitter, and that’s a good thing.

I have been Jonah for far too long. I have run away from that which I know in the depth of my heart to be absolutely right for me.

blueme

I have transformed over the past few years. My desires and ambitions have been strong and I am finally letting them go.

I will not be a working mom anytime soon. I have grieved this realization for too long, holding on to any tiny glimmer of hope that may have presented itself to me along the way. I have quit this before, but for some reason just when I think I have quit for good, I relapse and begin the process of guilt and denial once more. I quit. I quit trying to chase down dreams of something that just isn’t going to work out for me right now. Children eventually grow up and I am a young mother, I still have plenty of time to chase ambitions once my work here is done. I am a quitter.

I am not ready to be a full time novelist. I am not ready to give myself the kinds of time that I need to get an idea out of my head and into my hard drive. Time is precious. I can set apart some time because I need it as a part of my self care regimen, but I recognize now that I have other uses of my time which I value more. I will eventually finish my novels and I will continue to write down the ideas that flow from my mind but I will do so in my own time, not because I want to meet an arbitrary deadline. So, I quit. I quit feeling guilty about how I order my time. I am a quitter.

I am tired of feeling like I need to conform to some imaginary ideal. I don’t fit the mold that I keep trying to fit into. I am creative and artsy but I hate crafting. I like big ideas and in depth conversations, not small talk or superficial relationships. I am deeply empathetic, socially moderate but also religiously conservative. I am an introvert who enjoys social interactions in small quantities. I don’t fit, I never have and I am tired of trying to help people understand me. So, I quit. Yes, my hair is now blue and green and purple and grey and I love it so back off. I am a quitter.

My children are important to me. They are my everything, but the world does not revolve around them and I am still a separate person from them. I need to practice self-care. I will not sacrifice my health or mental well being in an effort to be a self-sacrificing mother. I am not selfish, I am recognizing that I am just as important as them. It does them no good to have a mother who can barely function, or a mother who can’t concentrate because of pain and depression. I suffer from several chronic pain conditions and I require a certain amount of self awareness to keep my whole family moving. Hospitalizations should not be my check engine light. I need to be aware before I break down. So, I quit. I quit trying to convince myself that its selfish to get a day alone or to take a nap when I need it. I am a quitter.

My children desire challenges. They thrive off of new information but they also have some areas where they really struggle. I am done trying to politely explain this to pediatricians and outsiders. Those who have met my children never doubt it. I will continue to focus on what challenges them and I will continue to challenge them to think deeply about the things that they love but I am not worried about whether or not they are “on track” with ridiculous things. The schools standards are not my priority and so I will not explain why my child can tell you fun facts about dark matter and chemical compounds but not name the state capitals. I quit. I will continue to teach them big ideas with little interest regarding your checklists or “what a third grader needs to know”… blah, blah, blah. I am a quitter.

The great thing about philosophies are that they are fluid. Methodologies don’t change but philosophies do. Right now my educational philosophy is in the midst of a metamorphoses. At the core, what I believe is the same, but in practice some philosophies have switched places. I’m beginning to lean a bit more CM than I have in the past and a whole lot less Unschooling. Not because I don’t believe in the message but rather because I’m finding that the structure of CM fits better with my focus challenged offspring and the others enjoy the flow. I’ve been making this transition over the past several months and I admit that I’ve been grieving the loss of our unschooling nature. I thrive in that natural learning environment, but I am not the one who needs to be thriving and coming to terms with that realization has been a slow transition.

As a form of early childhood education, that philosophy has been wonderful for our family but now a new style is fitting better and so I must say goodby to my favorite shoes that just don’t fit and break in a new pair. I hate breaking in new shoes. I am not ready to quit, but I must because I am a quitter. I quit when things just don’t work and I move on, I move forward. This past year has been so full of change and so full of quitting that its almost as if I am growing. Why else would I need so much newness? Or maybe, like Jonah I am just tired of running away and ready to face my calling, even if it is one I swore I would never do.

I quit. I quit trying to be someone I am not meant to be. I quit trying to create the life of my dreams and instead I want to dream of the life that I live. I am proud to be a quitter, how about you?

 

The Importance of a Lazy Day

Do you recognize the importance of lazy days? Do you savor the existence of an empty calendar day with no chores, expectations or social responsibilities? Do you intentionally plan for these days and then respect the need to keep them free?

importance of lazy daysI don’t know if you’ve been sucked into societies problem of over scheduling or if you’ve fallen prey to the wondrous lure of possibly fun or educational activities to the point where your family feels as though it’s being pulled in every which direction, but I have.

I have been a slave to the schedule of extra-curricular activities. I have stretched myself too thin between multiple social responsibilities that I just couldn’t say no to. I have been a chauffeur that eats multiple meals out of our van while spending way too much on gas money to get people from here to there.gardengirls There have been months where I wondered if we would be home often enough to ever get around to paper school work because there were so many activities and appointments scheduled. I’ve been there.I’ve been there and I was miserable. My family was rarely ever together the whole time, even though we homeschool and the stress was wearing us down.

Things needed to change, and so we changed them.

Over the past two years we have experimented with varying responsibilities, learning to say no, and learning to spread things out but more importantly we have learned to respect and hold fast to the importance of regularly scheduled lazy days. More than saying no, more than spreading out activities or field trips, it has been the regular lazy day that brings us together the most. gardening with dad

We try to fit in one day a week but realistically it looks more like two a month. A lazy day doesn’t need to be spent siting down. It doesn’t require lounging in front of a TV. Although both are valid options. A truly restful and healing lazy day means that you spend time at home, together, without outsiders or deadlines looming. Our best lazy days are scheduled after our busiest weeks or just before. Sometimes we garden together, sometimes we visit our neighborhood park (as in we go for a walk or bike ride) and on other days we play indoor games together (usually Dominoes or cards). It is on these days that I craft or cook their favorite meals and snacks, because I want to and we have the time, while the children play or my husband reads.

These are the days that we treasure most. These are the days where our family bonds grow. These are sacred days. They are important. They are necessary and we will never go back to a life without them.dominoes

After Chaos

Chaos and I are good friends. Ok, maybe not good friends at all, but we do go way back. I no longer have any enmity towards Chaos, although I once thought that she needed to know her place.

Yes, I completely believe that Chaos is a woman, much like a meddling mother in law- not my mother in law, of course, I’ve been blessed to be able to say that honestly. But not Chaos, no she’s the stuff other wives warn you about. Chaos enters my life from time to time without warning, rearranges everything she sees, stays to chat for a while and then leaves before I can speak my mind. Whenever she surfaces I hold on tight and hold my breath. I know she won’t be here long and often times I end up gaining something of immeasurable worth out of each visit, but each and every one of those visits are hard and some of them are downright painful!

After Chaos

After my last rant post I had a great “come to Jesus” talk with one of my mentors and she helped put things into perspective for me… which I desperately needed. I had planned on writing up a post that discussed the need for finding a great mentor to slap you when you get emotionally bogged down within the confines of your own head when my vision went wonky, I started seeing double and having light sensitivities. The vision problems caused migraines and I could barely make it through each day with all four kids fed and safe, let alone write a blog post. After two months of waiting for referrals and doctor appointments I was finally seen by an Opthomalogist at a regular appointment. He took one look at my eyes and walked me to the Neurology department, they took one look at me and admitted me to the hospital.

Chaos found her place. For two months we couldn’t live life as normal, after a week in the hospital and multiple tests the doctors diagnosed me and sent me home with medicine (I’m good now, so, YAY!) and over the course of the next week I couldn’t do anything but heal from all of the tests. That was followed by a series of family visitors and even less routine. All in all it ended up being three months of no routine. Learning was still happening here and there so I can’t say that we were not really on vacation either. Through it all we somehow managed to keep moving forward, even though craziness and unpredictability surrounded us. Until yesterday.

I don’t know what triggered the massive cold war but somehow it ended up with the Adults vs the Children in a massive passive aggressive battle of the wills. Remember, we are unschoolers, I don’t assign schoolwork, I don’t force subjects to be learned and I always respect the choices and interests of our children. However, we are also a family that lives and works in the same space and so we have guidelines that must be kept in order to keep the peace within the household. When it comes to school we have state guidelines that we have to meet and we need to show proof that we are doing this regularly. Our compromise has been that each child will do three written pages in a notebook per week. 3 pages a WEEK! They have no clue how easy they have it.

In the midst of the Chaos that permeated our lives over the last three months we slacked and only ended up doing 3 pages every two to three weeks. We did more screen based learning than normal, zero field trips (I couldn’t drive at all and the sun hurt my eyes) and we did next to no chores. When I told them earlier this week, “Now that I’m better it’s time that we get back into a routine” and they responded with smiles I really did think this would be an easy transition. I was so wrong.

elliepout

Chaos had entered our lives and rearranged our priorities. Every aspect of our lives had been touched without even realizing just how much of an impact this change had on us all. Lackadaisical attitudes coupled with a lack of ability to focus, loss of patience, and clashing over excitabilities all combined into a perfect storm. This is not the first Cold War we have endured at the hands of the meddlesome Chaos, nor will it be our last.

In our household letting go of our unschooling philosophy for a short while allows us to reset boundaries and rules. We need an intense, but short, period of time filled with structure, discipline and consistency in order to reacquaint our whole family to a system where coexistence can occur. Rules and guidelines are set in place and strictly adhered to so that together we can recreate a rhythm that works for us. The same can be said for our school environment. A more traditional and structured approach is needed after periods of uncertainty in order to re-establish a workable freedom that doesn’t overwhelm my little learners. I call this time our rehabilitation, my husband calls it bootcamp but for our children it is indispensable.

After the emotional rollercoaster that deeply effected each of them with my health issues, hospital stay and recovery, the children needed something secure to act as a foundation. I have always been the constant for them. Through deployments, cross country moves, TAD/TDY and every other up and down we have lived through, at the hands of our fluid military lives, Mommy has always been the constant, unwavering center that held everything together. This time when Chaos visited, she shook us to our foundation, and now we are rebuilding the life we have all come to love.

lake

Maybe, Chaos is an old friend. She teaches me lessons I’m too stubborn to teach myself. She loves me enough not to let me skate through life unchanged. Chaos grows my “Grit,” my ability to fall down and bounce back up. Chaos is just one of many tools that I need to help shape me into the leader, adult and person I want to be. I would like to think that how I welcome Chaos is not nearly as important as what I do once she leaves. When Chaos is in town I just have to tread water until she leaves, but after, after is when I have to really keep moving forward. It’s so easy to get stuck just treading water. The hard work always comes after Chaos. The hard work is swimming back to land.

Imposter Located

If I’m so smart, then why is making friends so hard?

If I’m so smart, then why haven’t I been able to get a job since Grad School?

If I’m so smart, then why do I feel like a failure so often?

I did everything right. It was all so easy before I became an adult. The lines were all laid out and everything was perfectly presented with instructions.

1. Get good grades so you can go to college. Check. All I had to do was give the teacher what they wanted, even if it was boring or I knew it was stupid I did it anyway…most of the time. I wasn’t one of those gifted kids who had a hard time in school and I wasn’t one of the ones who got straight A’s either (because that only invited bullies and I was already strange enough). I knew just how much I needed to participate in order to keep the adults happy…practically drowning in societal expectations of what a good girl should be.

2. Choose a good college. Check. I chose a State school. The school nearest to me with the best stats instead of applying for the ivy leagues…honestly I was afraid that if I ended up getting accepted by some freak chance then everyone there would realize that I was a total poser and not nearly smart enough, so I didn’t even try. I specifically chose only one school. I had no back up because I knew there was no chance that I wouldn’t get in. I didn’t get excited or happy when I got my acceptance letter, I knew it was coming. My test scores were well above the average for the school, I was in the top 10% of my class, I was a double minority… the odds were in my favor.

3. Graduate with a good GPA. Check. Yeah, sure I officially changed my major 7 times in my first two years, but my overall GPA was still above average…no where near my best but good enough for what I thought were still mostly easy classes. The classes were so easy that I probably should have had higher grades but I didn’t because the social stuff was hard on me, really hard on me. I still hadn’t figured out how to “apply” myself, even if that had been on every single report card since kindergarten!

4. Go to Graduate school. Check. Okay, maybe this is where I messed up. I will admit that I did not study for my GRE’s. I was in the middle of a really bad break up and rebound and had completely forgotten about the test until my computer alarm went off the night before. My scores were decent… right around average and for my frame of mind, fairly good. My parents were really worried about my mental health and current boyfriend/fiancé (they refused to call him that) so they coerced me into staying with them in Japan under military orders for a few months. I went, we broke up and in order to stay on the island I needed to be a full time student… long story short, within a week I was enrolled and accepted into a graduate degree program that was offered on base as a military extension (full time professors were brought on island and everything). This extension challenged me more than any other set of coursework had. I got to know my professors and I challenged them with my thoughts (which were, for the first time,  welcomed) and the exchange of ideas that were held with current military officers, who brought in professional points of view, were tantalizing. I looked forward to every single class and assignment.

5. Get your first real job. Check. Full time grad program and a full time Middle school teacher. It was a very busy year and I loved every minute of it. Those 7th and 8th graders challenged me to think more than any professor ever had. This was when I knew for sure that I would always want to teach. I was challenged with teaching Social Studies, Bible and English at an International Christian School to a mixture of nationalities, starting two weeks after school had started and with curricula that I had used in middle school myself (ancient!)… and I thrived off of the challenge.

Then I got married and had kids. I was happy, excited, and completely ready for everything life would through at me!

Then it all stopped. All of a sudden social stuff was being thrown at me, not work challenges or school deadlines. Things like making new friends as an adult and deployments. I kept trying to find my way back. Every application was denied, either for employment or studies. Every single door slammed in my face. Making friends became harder but I started finding other misfits along the way. Which is fine and good but what about my goals and dreams. 

I still didn’t really fit in with the other wives, I couldn’t find a job and the schools rejected me when they heard that I had children. Apparently, “you can’t really balance four children and this kind of program.” Yes, in this day and age I was actually told this by two professors at two leading universities, to my face: both meant it kindly, …I’m sure. Here I was, too well educated to get a job and watching people I knew with less education getting hired on the spot while I was told that I was over qualified. 

I’m over qualified for an Internship or entry level position, but don’t have enough experience for a higher level job. I am qualified for an adjunct but competing against people who were more qualified, so not really qualified. In order to fix that dilema I apply for grad school, only to be told I have too many children …and now I can’t even get an online tutoring job. I suppose I could always create my own business but that’s not my point.

For eight years I have been rejected for every single application I’ve turned in.

I don’t know if this is a commentary on being gifted or just being a woman with children, who chose to stay home for the early years. I don’t know if all these doors slam in my face because my “calling” (please imagine those are full on air quotes because if there was a sarcasm font available it would be used here!) is to “just” be a stay at home and homeschooling mom. I know these are hard jobs, I love them both, but I really thought I could do more…isn’t that what we tell our daughters? “You can do anything!” Can I, really? It sure doesn’t feel like it.

I don’t know why I go through this, but I do know that every single rejection feels like a stake through the heart. With every hit it’s as if I’m being told that I am not smart enough, social enough or just plain good enough. Like they’ve finally found me out and kicked me out of the group. After years of hiding among the smart kids, the smart police have caught up with me and the imposter has been found.

The last rejection was harder than the others, I had a gut feeling it wouldn’t work out but at the same time I was perfectly qualified for it so I just sat there and cried.

If I’m so smart, then why?

I know things happen for a reason. I know doors shut and windows open, I know its all about timing and I’m still young… blah, blah, blah… maybe my expectations were just set too high. 

Why do we tell kids that life is like a formula? Life is not an If, Then statement… I don’t live in an Excel sheet or the Matrix. There is no logic out here and to my logical mind If I did A, B, and C then D should occur. Well D didn’t occur, R did and I had not planned for it. R is wonderful. It’s a crazy beautiful life filled with random everyday blessings (ok that made me laugh!) but it is not what I had planned and right now I’m mourning the loss of D. I’ll be ok tomorrow and heck, I may even rise with an idea or two of my own… maybe even think of myself as witty or maybe not.

 So, while the sirens scream and the search for the located imposter continues I will just sit here in my very own pity party, analyzing all the why’s possible because that’s what I do and that is how I cope with disappointment. Just in case your looking too,you’ll find me with a book or a pencil and if you need more help…

Here I’ll even hold up a sign.Imposter Located